The first of 15 national consultations on a draft Regional Gender Equality Strategy for CARICOM opened on Thursday, in St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda.
Approximately 50 stakeholders representing government, Non-Government Organisations, Civil Society Groups, the Private Sector, and Faith Based Organisations are attending the consultation. They are expected to give their views and recommendations on the strategy as it relates to a situation analysis of gender equality, equity and the empowerment of women and girls in Antigua and Barbuda, examine gaps and assess what could be some of the “quick wins” that could be harnessed to continue to achieve progress in the six priority areas of the strategy. The priority areas identified included equality and social inclusion, freedom from violence, access to health services, access to education, good governance and economic empowerment.
According to Deputy Programme Manager, Gender and Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Ann-Marie Williams, who is leading on the consultations, it was also expected that participants would better understand the gains made in gender equality and equity since the Beijing Declaration in 1995, while identifying what needed to be done in order to fast-track progress.
Ms. Williams emphasised that the strategy was crafted using a rights-based approach that took into consideration vulnerable groups, particularly the disabled and indigenous peoples. She also outlined that the Strategy’s goal was to accelerate the effective implementation of priority actions through a Regional coordinated approach to achieve gender equality, equity and the empowerment of women and girls in tandem with Goal 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Goal 5 speaks to the empowerment of all women and girls and is the driver of all the other 16 SDGs.
The Deputy Programme Manager explained that the SDG framework was the latest that spoke to the empowerment of women and girls since the gender equality strategy had been drafted. She added that the strategy was also aligned with the Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Samoa Pathway, the Montevideo Consensus and other regional and international frameworks on the advancement of Gender and Development that CARICOM Member States had ratified.
As part of the consultations in Member States, key informant interviews will also be conducted in some of the countries. The purpose of those interviews is to find out how key informants can assist with advancing gender equality in those countries.
The consultations are expected span the next few months with engagements confirmed in Guyana on March 6, Belize on April 5, as well as Grenada in May and Jamaica in June. It is expected that all 15 CARICOM Member States will provide their input on the strategy after which it will be reviewed and the necessary amendments made for a final document to be produced. Thursday’s consultation was held in partnership with UN Women and the Antigua Gender Affairs Division.